Muse at Target Center, 3/7/13
Photo by Tony Nelson
With Dead Sara
Target Center, Minneapolis
Thursday, March 7, 2013
When it came time for the finale last night at Target Center, Muse didn't leave anything to chance. Well, scratch that -- maybe a little bit: The high-definition LED screens that wrapped around the stage suddenly transformed into a giant roulette wheel, and -- whether it was scripted or not -- for a moment the set list hung in the balance. Then the ball landed: "Stockholm Syndrome."
As the band tore through "Stockholm's" nigh-on-metal riff, the Jumbotron-sized screens overhead began flashing and spinning, then rotating up and down with one another. Finally, as the Brits hit the song's climax, the screens lowered all the way down to the stage, until they'd surrounded the band and formed a pyramid, completely blocking them from view. The screens lit up with ominous images of eyes and men in suits.
And the song, with that, was over.
Everything about Muse's show last night was played out on the largest of scales. The set -- as could be expected of an arena show -- was lavish, with not only the aforementioned LED screens, but also three separate stage levels that included a runway. Drummer Dominic Howard was set up right in the middle of it all, his kit set on risers at center stage, and throughout the night there were lasers and smoke at almost every turn. Even the endless series of guitars had lights on the necks that glowed in the dark every time the house lights went down.
(Did we forget the sunglasses with the song lyrics on them? There were those, too. Oh hell, yes, there were.)
Photos by Tony Nelson
And the band itself delivered in kind. There were moments of calm scattered among the set list, but for the most part, Muse went flat-out for the entire hour and 40 minutes that they played. Just about every song, one way or another, not only rocked, but did so on an anthemic scale -- with Matthew Bellamy's big, finger-tapped guitar solos full of screaming distortion and whammy bar dives, or huge drum flourishes that swarmed the room with the snaps of Howard's double-bass pedal. This was a band with everything, and lots of it.
Which is what made some of the show's themes feel a little incongruous -- namely, the political rabble-rousing (which, however vague the message may have been, there was nonetheless plenty of). That massive finale during "Stockholm," for instance? Once the pyramid had formed and the song was over, the screens cut to scenes of people running through what looked like a war zone, before the band reemerged and finished off the main set with the dystopian warnings of "Uprising." Set against the ostentatiousness of everything surrounding it, the Orwellian specter rang a little hollow.
In fact, there were at least three overt references made to Wall Street during the night, including having stocks run along the screens as though on a ticker, and another that was a long close-up of a laughing businessman. Sometimes, too, the message felt a little mixed: Bellamy played a squealing rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner," an act of patriotic chutzpah (by an Englishman, no less) that prompted a sea of raised arms holding cellphones in the crowd, after which the band launched straight into the anti-corporate manifesto "Animals." ("Advertise/Franchise/Expand/Kill the competition," Bellamy chanted.) If nothing else, it was all rather unsubtle.
Photos by Tony Nelson
But that, in the end, was beside the point--or perhaps it was the point. Songs like "Animals" and "Uprising" or even "Knights of Cydonia" fit in perfectly alongside Muse's other songs, which, for the most part, were love songs. Of course, these love songs were no soft touch; these were songs of high drama, of conflict and wrongdoing. Bellamy sang about love as asphyxiation; as drowning; as madness. It might as well have been a battlefield.
Which, really, was how it all tied together. If the political songs had a rebellious, against-the-Man streak in them, then so too did the love songs. After Bellamy declared, in "Uprising," that "they will not control us" (the literal "they" not necessarily mattering), he then turned it inside-out on "Follow Me," promising, "I won't let them harm you." In either case, here were Muse not only as outsiders, but heroically, and romantically so. All the pyrotechnics and extravagance and showmanship were all there simply to reinforce the conviction.
Naturally, there was more than enough showmanship packed into the night, especially on the part of Bellamy, dressed sharply as he was in a sport coat with black and silver triangles, some faint stubble on his chin. There were fist pumps, prompts to the crowd to wave their hands or sing along, and more than several occasions where he dropped to his knees either to sing or tear off a guitar solo. His grand piano conveniently raised up out of the floor whenever it was time to start off a ballad.
But the cleverest touch came during "Undisclosed Desires," when Bellamy, having made his way to the uppermost level of the stage for the first (and as it turned out, only) time of the night, suddenly made the descent all the way down to floor level. There, accompanied by security guards, he walked past the audience, shaking their hands and singing, without losing his stride, "I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart."
Right then, the crowd probably would, indeed, have followed him anywhere.
Critic's Bias: They're so rich. I'm so jealous. (Not really. That would be unprofessional. *Coughs*)
The Crowd: Not quite full, but loving every minute of it.
Overheard in the Crowd: Does smelling weed count? Because there was actually a lot of that.
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Map of the Problematique
Supermassive Black Hole
Knights of Cydonia
Time Is Running Out
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